4 Renaissance Love Sonnets for Close-Reading Practice

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Astrophel and Stella I

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,–
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,–
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn’d brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention’s stay;
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows;
And others’ feet still seem’d but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”


In this strange labyrinth

Lady Mary Wroth (1587-1651) 

In this strange labyrinth how shall I turn,
Ways are on all sides while the way I miss:
If to the right hand, there, in love I burn,
Let me go forward, therein danger is.
If to the left, suspicion hinders bliss;
Let me turn back, shame cries I ought return:
Nor faint, though crosses my fortunes kiss,
Stand still is harder, although sure to mourn.
This let me take the right, or left hand way,
Go forward, or stand still, or back retire:
I must these doubts endure without allay
Or help, but travel finde for my best hire.
Yet that which most my troubled sense doth move,
Is to leave all, and take the thread of Love.


One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand

Edmund Spenser (1552–1599)

ONE day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washèd it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide and made my pains his prey.
Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay 5
A mortal thing so to immortalise;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.
Not so (quod I); let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame; 10
My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.

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